As the follow-up to the critically liked and commercially successful Lost Planet, Lost Planet 2 seems to have everything going for it. Aimed at western audiences, the team at Capcom, headed up by Keiji Inafune and Jun Takeuchi, promised the return of the well received multiplayer mode from the original game, as well as some much-hyped four player co-op for the entire main campaign. Unfortunately, few lessons seem to have been learned from the original Lost Planet's problems. Instead, Lost Planet 2 offers online play that feels dated in 2010 and adds a host of new issues to the series without fixing what was wrong last time, leading to a game that is in many regards worse than its predecessor.
In my Xbox 360 review
, I mention that Lost Planet 2 is a beautiful title that really shows off the strengths of Capcom's MT Framework 2.0 engine. From familiar ice fields to jungles and cities and deserts, the world of EDN III is often a sight to behold. Unfortunately, the PS3 version of Lost Planet 2 suffers in comparison. The framerate experiences significant drops whenever the screen is busy, particularly in outdoor stages and during boss fights and hectic combat situations. Occasionally, the game will pause visually for several moments. This can have profound effects on the responsiveness of controls, and there were numerous points where I was nearly killed by an enemy waiting for the game to seemingly catch up with me. The music remains excellent though, with sweeping, epic orchestration punctuating major moments of the game, though it would have been nice to hear it more often. The bulk of many levels lack any musical accompaniment at all, leading to an often quiet monster hunting experience.
Things largely unravel from there. The controls remains as clunky as they were last time around, and deviate from the standard third-person layout in perplexing ways. Want to melee? That's the Circle button. Want to run? Well, that's also the Circle button. Want to activate that data post or Vital Suit? We've got a Circle button for that. The grappling hook (or anchor) can still only be used with feet planted firmly on the ground, and your character jumps like his pockets are full of rocks. Every animation is over-emphasized to the point of getting in the way of playing the game. Even worse, you'll often be forced to endure agonizing waits as you hammer the Circle button at data posts, or impatiently sit in a Vital Suit while it goes through an activation sequence that repeats every time you enter it. Lost Planet 2 is fixated on elaborate activation sequences, and there's generally at least one section per chapter that forces you to wade through some kind of convoluted Rube Goldberg machine in order to complete your objective - that is, when the game is good enough to tell you how you're supposed to complete that objective in the first place.
The story is, remarkably, even less coherent than the previous game's focus on amnesiac Wayne and his quest for identity. Lost Planet 2 takes place 10 years later, as the formerly frozen EDN III has begun to thaw and even more pirate factions are fighting for territory. Meanwhile, military organization NEVEC has plans to exploit the massive alien Cat-G Akrid that have begun to appear for their valuable thermal energy, even if their goals destroy the planet in the process. The game's six episodes take place from several perspectives -- including an extended and ill-advised jaunt through some semi-offensive ethnic stereotypes toward the end -- though the focus sits mainly on a squad of NEVEC commandos that quickly realize, to quote the cliche, that they're in for more than they signed up for. As this squad and everyone else realize what NEVEC is up to, they... well, they pretty much all make their way in a prescribed direction without talking or communicating with each other, and only one group of pirates actually does anything meaningful. While each episode manages to show something different, the game feels disjointed and hard to follow, and eventually bogs down in anime and old-school videogame cliches.
Another problematic area is the game's level design. Lost Planet 2 is split into six episodes each with multiple chapters, and each chapter has several missions. There are no checkpoints between missions, meaning you'll need to complete a full chapter to save your progress in Lost Planet 2, which can often take more than an hour to play through. This means that should you die near the end of a chapter trying to figure out what the game wants you to do, which it never really tells you, you'll have to play the whole thing over again. There's also no jump-in co-op, as new players will be forced to wait in a lobby until the other players in the game reach the next mission in a chapter before they can join the session. Campaign levels feel like multiplayer maps populated by enemy soldiers and akrid, and little attention to balance difficulty or fairness is apparent. Expect to die over and over at certain points as enemy akrid or vital suits camp your spawn points. The giant akrid bosses and mini-bosses return, as does their tendency to knock you down and never let you back up. There is some satisfaction to be found from conquering these enormous monsters, but it's always grim; the kind of satisfaction that comes from an end to frustration rather than a sense of accomplishment.
Competitive multiplayer is largely unchanged from the last game. While the thrill of jumping into a giant robot suit to pound your friends into mush remains, the controls and weapons lack the finesse and balance players expect from triple-A shooters in 2010. More often than not, you'll have the most success throwing an electrical grenade and killing the enemy it temporarily incapacitates. There are a number of different modes, but the Akrid Egg capture mode - which sees each team fighting to bring an Akrid egg to a goal while preventing the other team from reaching theirs - stands out as something fairly unique and interesting amidst an otherwise "by the numbers" multiplayer menu that seems to have taken all of the features popular in big shooters today but none of the logic behind them.
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